At the beginning of December 2020, I made my monthly call to the IRS to follow up on our 501(c)3 nonprofit application status. The official submission was made in June, and from what I had been told, read online, and heard through the grapevine, the approval process could take as long as 180 days. Well, with a global pandemic forging full steam ahead, and continuing in the role of distance learning 1st grade TA to my daughter, I had other things to occupy my mind with during the wait. In addition, LEG had back-to-back scheduled online classes with the local high schools and work experience programs since early September. Our fundraising efforts were going “ok” for the moment, but receiving that nonprofit status was needed in order to attain our 2021 goals and expand.
As I mentioned above, since June I made routine monthly calls to the IRS to check on our application progress. This was apparently the only way to follow up, and thankfully I was able to get a live person on the phone to speak with fairly quickly each time. Since June, each call followed the same script, “Well, your application has not even been given to the review department,” which to me always sounded like “You still have a long wait to go.”
This December we were nearing the 180-day mark, and so I dialed with an optimistic expectation in mind. Just as all of the other calls before, the phone agent asked the same details and put me on a “brief hold.” When she returned, she spoke with a tone that was different. “Your application has been sent for review,” she exclaimed. I excitedly blurted out, “Wow! That’s great!” fully thinking that our approval was right around the corner. “Now wait a minute,” the agent cautiously said. “The review process could take up to another SIX MONTHS.” My breathing became shallow, a slight headache instantly began, and I felt an overwhelming feeling that someone had just sucker punched me right in the gut.
That evening, I went to sleep very beaten down and feeling discouraged. My passion for getting our important education to as many students as possible was being delayed by something completely out of my control. As my Myers-Briggs personality type details will tell you, I don’t do well with that. Thankfully, after a restless night of sleep, I woke up remembering an alternative. Early in LEG’s inception, the idea of contracting with a Fiscal Sponsorship was debated. If you are unfamiliar with this term, it basically allows you to use another corporation’s nonprofit status, while the corporation takes an agreed upon percentage of what revenue you bring in. I instantly started researching and created my plan. Within a few weeks, I presented my findings to the Board, and we agreed on voting at our first meeting of the year.
After the holiday season passed, it was time to vote, and unanimously we all agreed to move forward with the best Fiscal Sponsor. This meeting was held on a Friday, and this particular corporation assured me that we could finalize the contract details after the weekend. Feeling very excited about our new interim opportunity, I reached out to my contact early Monday morning ready to finalize the contract. We had been emailing back and forth with various details, so communication and progress was not instant. Between emails, I decided to go check the mail, as it was around the time it typically arrived. Within the regular ads and junk mail was an unusually important looking envelope addressed to Life-Skills Empowerment Group. Over the last 6 months, I had been told that organizations receive approval from a mailed determination letter. I had received and opened similar looking envelopes labeled with our business name before, with the thought that possibly this was the one. But not under any circumstance could the one I was currently holding in my hand be The One!
Well, it was. On the same day we were about to put pen to paper with another corporation, after being told a little over a month prior to expect another wait time of almost 6 months, our determination letter came to make our small but mighty organization bigger. Some have said, “Oh! What a waste of time and energy researching and communicating with the potential Fiscal Sponsorships!” But I don’t see it as a waste of time. That time continued to give me hope. That time showed me that there are other opportunities, and that a rejection or hurdle in your way can open up other fruitful paths. I learned a lot during my fiscal sponsorship search. I met and had great conversations with individuals providing amazing assistance to people with great ideas, and a drive to make a difference. Sometimes, pausing to reflect on how you got here allows you to appreciate the journey more.
LEG is extremely excited to move forward with our new status. Not only will this allow our small but mighty operation to grow and expand in our capabilities, it will also allow more and more students to benefit from our hard work in developing and delivering this much needed education.